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AdviceHey, Bonita!

How to Date in Athens as a Thirtysomething

Bonita, I need your advice on getting past the first date.

I’m in my 30s, local and a business owner. I have been on dating apps for a few months now, and I keep running into the same issue. The people (men, women and everyone in between) whom I end up going on first dates with have all ended in friendship, which they have indicated after the first date. I cherish those new friendships, but after all, I am looking for a partner. I’m not going to come here complaining about being “butt hurt” for the terrible phrase “friend zoning,” because I respect people’s boundaries and also enjoy new friendships. (And sorry for the scare quotes.)

Now that that’s out of the way, I do desire someone to share my time with. Someone more than a friend who will stay over after a movie to cuddle and be sexually intimate. Someone who is independent and wants to share a life with me. I don’t need to marry someone (ever?) or know that dating will be long-term after the first date.

I do make an effort to be candid on dating apps about my interest in dating, my orientations and general upfrontness. I get that dating apps are notorious for hookups, and that’s fine, because I’m not there for that. But is there some trick I’m missing? Dating in my 30s in Athens is vastly different than it was in my 20s. Then, dating came easily by meeting people through mutual friends. Now, it seems, everyone is more settled, and there’s less availability in general.

I’m not out here wasting every waking moment on dating apps, but I have put myself out there for a while now. What gives?

I’m having the exact same experience, friend. My 20s in Athens were wild and wonderful, but as I’ve settled into being thirtysomething, I’ve noticed that my dating pool has shrunk considerably. You’re right: There’s plenty of tail to be had, but committed relationships are hard to come by in a such a young town. There are plenty of people our age in Athens, but they all seem to be already taken, holding steadfast to a Peter Pan lifestyle that might not appeal to those of us who want stability, or just straight-up alcoholics.

Honestly, to me, it sounds like you already know what to do: Be upfront about your intentions and orientations from the jump. That’s a scary prospect, because that means the people looking for casual encounters—as you said, the vast majority of people on dating apps—will pass you by and you’ll go on fewer dates as a result, but the dates you do snag will be with people who are more likely to share your desire for something more long-term. The silence can be so deafening that it’s tempting to just stop trying, but make it about quality, not quantity.

I’d also recommend you try apps less geared towards casual encounters. Instead of Tinder, try OkCupid, Bumble or Coffee Meets Bagel. I know from personal experience that there are fewer users on the latter two apps than Tinder or OkCupid, but like I said: quality, not quantity.


What training have you undergone to provide such life-changing support to the people who ask for your advice? Are you a licensed therapist? Psychologist? Just a dabbler in giving advice? Do you realize sometimes you are too harsh and may cause people who write you to feel shame or unkindly to themselves?

I’ve been writing this column for years, and I am thankful for the trust this community has placed in me. I am a professional journalist and lifelong writer and raconteur—like most advice columnists. I have a degree in my field, but no professional training as a therapist, and I have never claimed to have any—like most advice columnists. I am paid to give honest advice, not to coddle, though my intentions are never to shame anyone who is well-meaning in their actions—like most advice columnists. I never hesitate to recommend professional assistance to people with serious problems—like most advice columnists.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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